What To Bring On A Day Hike

Adventures in breathtaking trails and mountains become more enjoyable if you know what to bring on a day hike. Preparing before doing any of the day hikes is essential not just for a worry-less hike but most importantly to ensure that you get home safe and sound.

You might be thinking that going on a day hike is as easy as identifying the place and getting on your hiking shoes but there are more necessary things that are super important to bring.

This article will help you have the best day hike as we will provide all the information about the things that you need to bring with you on the trail.

You might have already known most of the items listed here but there could be a few that you have not thought about yet but are needed as the rest of your prepared items.

Things to Consider on a Day Hike

Before you think about the things to bring, it is important to know your goals and the appropriate things that you have to keep in mind on your day hiking trip.

The following are the things that you have to be aware of for your day hikes.

  1. Pack light. Make your load as light as possible. You would need to carry light materials for you to keep a fast walking pace and possibly return before the night sets in.
  2. Prioritize your comfort. Your hike will be more enjoyable if you are not walking in an ill-fitting outfit that hinders movements or sore feet because you chose the incorrect type of shoes.
  3. Think about your safety on the trail. The most important aspect is that you are safe on the hiking trails.
  4. Listen to weather reports to prepare better for a hike. This is important, especially for beginner hikers. You would want not to be trapped in a storm with the possibility of landslides and slipping on difficult trails so listening to the weather forecast is a must.

Day Hiking Essentials

Now that you have thought about the most important things to consider, this next part is for all your hiking essentials on your day trip. So, here is the day hiking essentials list that we have prepared for you:

First Aid Kit

What to bring on a day hike: First Aid Kit

A first-aid kit is one of the most important hiking gear to bring on any hike. Accidents can happen anytime, anywhere and it is best to be prepared for them by bringing the right hike essentials.

Your first-aid supplies should have the following items:

  • Band-Aids
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Safety pins
  • Cotton balls or swabs
  • Bug spray
  • Lip balm
  • Bear spray

You also have to bring a hand sanitizer aside from antiseptic wipes in your first aid kit safety supplies. Place your hand sanitizer in a pocket where you have easy access.

Remember that you have to pack lightly so choose the smallest size packaging for these items on your first aid kit. There are also ready-made first-aid kits that contain everything you need so you don’t have to purchase them individually.

Food and Water

Bring food and water on a day hike

You will need to replenish your energy as you hike so it is important to bring food and water with you as part of your top ten essentials for day hiking.

How much food and water should you bring on a day hike? The recommended water is one liter per person for every two hours of hiking. But you might need more than that, especially in areas with high temperatures where you need to hydrate often to cool down your body temperature.

For food, bring high-energy snacks such as granola bars, dry fruits, and nuts. There are trail mix products that offer different types of dried fruits and nuts in one packaging. For lunch, choose one that is easy to pack and does not spoil quickly such as sandwiches.

Pack more food and water than you think you will need to be safe rather than sorry in case your hike takes longer than expected.

Bringing a water purifier is also advisable in case you run out of water and need to drink from a natural water source. Instead of drinking directly when you don’t know what could be in the water that could make you ill, a water purifier provides extra protection.

You might also want to check out insulated water bottles that will keep your water temperature cold for a refreshing drink in the mountains.

Hydration packs also provide convenient access for your water supply , you might want to consider getting one too.

Navigation Tools

Navigation tools for a day hike

Navigation tools are a must on any hike, day or night. It is important to know where you are and where you are going at all times.

The terrain can change due to events such as flash floods or fallen trees but if you have a navigation tool for hiking gear, you can always figure out which way is the correct direction to follow. Trail runners even make it a good practice to bring navigation tools especially when you are left all alone on a trail without hiking partners or have no one to ask for directions.

There are various navigation tools that you can bring as part of your hiking checklist such as:

  • Compass
  • GPS device
  • Altitude watch
  • Map of the area (bring a plastic-covered map vs a paper map)

Day Pack

Day pack for hikers

Unlike hiking for several days where you have to bring a big backpack, day hiking only requires a small hiking backpack for all your hiking essentials.

This comes back to what was mentioned earlier about bringing light packs for an easy walk on the trail especially on steep hikes without the unnecessary weight.

There are a lot of good light day packs available in the market so make sure to get one for your day hike.

Along with your day pack, you also have to pair it with a rain cover to protect the necessary items inside your pack in case of rain. Some day packs come with a rain cover when you purchase them but you can also purchase a rain cover separately.

A waterproof bag is also a good choice for day hiking gear if you want to save space for the other items on your hiking packing list.

Extra Clothing

Extra clothing for a day hike

Hiking comfortably is important not just for you to enjoy your day hike without having to adjust your clothing from time to time but also for proper protection, especially for your legs, feet, and knees that do most of the work. Below are the tips on how to choose the right clothing to wear for your day hike:

  • Hiking Boots or shoes – The most important clothing item that you need to bring is a good pair of hiking boots, especially on long hikes. The right hiking footwear can make or break your hike so make sure that they are comfortable, fit well, and provide ankle support for your feet. The right shoes offer no wiggle room for your toes. When buying, you can even ask for recommendations about shoes intended for trail runners if you want to step up our day hiking into trail running soon.
  • Socks – For socks, choose the ones that are comfortable, breathable, and anti-blister. There are different kinds of socks in the market so you can choose the ones that fit your needs such as wool socks for cold weather or ankle socks for hot weather.
  • Hiking Pants – It is best to avoid jeans because they are not comfortable and can be quite hot, especially in the summer. There are a lot of incredibly affordable good hiking pants available that are breathable, lightweight, and offer a lot of pocket space.
  • Shirts – For your shirt, you can either choose a short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirt. If you are hiking during the summer, a short-sleeved shirt is ideal to prevent you from feeling too hot. A long-sleeved shirt is good for fall or winter hikes to keep you warm.
  • Jacket – A jacket is a must as part of your day hiking essentials, especially for cold-weather hikes. Make sure that your jacket is waterproof and windproof to protect you from the elements.
  • Gloves – Gloves are also necessary, especially in cold weather, to keep your hands warm.
  • Rain jacket and rain pants – Rain gear such as a rain jacket and rain pants are also good to bring, especially if you are day hiking in an area that is known for having a lot of rainfall.
  • Extra clothing layers – It is always a good idea to bring extra clothing layers such as a long-sleeved shirt or jacket even if you are day hiking in warm weather. The weather can change unexpectedly and it is always better to be prepared. Extra clothing will help you stay warm when the unexpected cold sets in.

Sun Protection

Bring sub protection when hiking

When you explore the outdoors you are under the glaring heat of the sun. So sun protection like sunscreen and sunglasses should be part of your day hiking essentials list to bring on a day hike.

For the application of sunscreen, it is recommended that you re-apply every after 2 hours for consistent protection on your day hiking trip. You can also bring a sun hat for extra sun protection.

Gear Repair Kit

Gear Repair Kit used when hiking

Another essential day hiking gear to bring is a mini gear repair kit. This is necessary in case you need to fix something on your gear while you are on the hike.

The mini repair kit should include items such as a needle and thread, pocket knife, duct tape, safety pins, and a multi-tool. You can use duct tape in case of rips on your backpack and clothing. You can even use it on your shoes.

A multi-tool is such a versatile tool with different uses that many hikers bring and you will find it very helpful to bring along the trail.

Some kits contain all the necessary things that you need without having to purchase each item.

Illumination and Emergency Shelter

Illumination and Emergency Shelter

There are unprecedented events that can happen along the trail and it’s not always that you can expect smooth trails. You might be short on your hiking time because you suddenly have to reroute because of fallen trees.

There’s also the possibility of being stranded overnight because the weather will not allow you to continue on your hike because of zero visibility.

You must be prepared especially if it’s your first time hiking on the trail and not familiar with the area.

Bringing a flashlight as part of your essential gear in your day hike packing list will help you if you have to extend your hike until nighttime. There might be steep areas or cracks that you might miss without the proper illumination.

An emergency shelter is another thing to bring as part of your ten essentials hiking checklist, especially during longer hikes that might require you to have an emergency camp along the trail. For staying warm, especially when hiking in snow, bringing an emergency sleeping bag is also advisable.

Matches or fire-starter – In the emergency case where you have to camp for the night, you might need additional warmth from a bonfire. Just be very responsible when it comes to fire and make sure to put out all embers before you sleep.

Toilet Paper, Pee Bag, and Trash Bag

Toilet Paper, Pee Bag, and Trash Bag

Some established day hiking routes have toilets but most do not have toilets along the trail. You’ll never know when you’ll have the urge to pee or even poop so a toilet paper would be handy along with a pee bag if you’re uncomfortable peeing on unknown bushes.

Always practice the Leave no Trace principle and dispose of your waste properly in a trash bag that you have to bring with you until you find a nearby trash bin.

Identification and Money

Identification and Money

Of course, you wouldn’t want to get lost on your day hike so it’s essential to bring some form of identification with you.

You should at least have your driver’s license or passport with you. If you’re hiking in a remote area, it would be best if you also bring some cash with you. There might be no establishments along the way where you can buy water or food.

You can put your IDs and cash in a Ziploc bag for extra protection in case of rain.

Other Things to Bring (Optional)

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are your extra support, especially on steep and slippery trails. These are also helpful when you’re carrying a lot of weight in your backpack.

Choose lightweight trekking poles when deciding to get one There are even foldable hiking poles that you can conveniently carry in your backpack.

Bear horn or bear whistle

If you’re hiking in areas with grizzly bears, it would be best to bring a bear horn or bear whistle as a safety measure. The loud noise will help scare the bear away.

Photography Equipment

You would not want to miss out on those picturesque clicks to capture the moment.

Power Bank

You might want to keep your cell phone alive to take pictures or to call for help in case of an emergency.

Personal Locator Beacon

Expensive but worth it an investment, especially when hiking in remote areas without cell service. If you want to give extra peace of mind to your loved ones back home and are considering hiking to be part of your lifestyle, investing in this item would be helpful.

Emergency Whistle

This can also be used to call for help and pinpoint your location in case of an emergency.

In your quest to explore nature, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. So, be prepared and bring all the necessary day hike gear. Also, always remember to leave no trace and practice safety when enjoying the great outdoors.

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Article by Kyle

Digital nomad since 2010. I spend my time traveling around the world learning about new cultures and languages. I've lived in 4 continents and still have a lot left to explore!